It may not be the most wonderful time of the year for some patients. Here's how healthcare providers can help.
The holiday season is classically known as a happy time of year, but this is not always the case for some patients.
During these months, the holiday season can trigger stress related to increased expectations, finances, and family interaction, but it typically resolves once the holidays are over. However, there are other conditions that can persist past the holiday season and may require more intervention to resolve.
Moreover, patients living in cold weather climates often face symptoms consistent with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Reduced sunlight from lake-effect and daylight-savings strategies can cause a drop in serotonin levels that may trigger depression. SAD, which is a characterized by a decline in mood and associated symptoms, typically occurs in the fall and winter months, when there is less sunlight, cold weather, less outdoor activities, noted reductions in social interaction, and increased isolation.
Providers don’t have to practice in mental health to have an impact on patients with these concerns and disorders. We have the power to identify, treat, or refer patients to a higher level of care, and in some cases, save a life.
Here are a few ways we can help patients who deal with stress and depression during the holidays and winter months:
While the festive spirit of the holidays sweeps the country, it’s important that we remain cognizant of the “holiday blues” that can take hold of patients who may be particularly vulnerable to these messages.
Working in mental health has taught me a lot about resilience, and I am grateful to play a part in patients regaining control of their lives. There isn’t a cure for a lot of the conditions I treat, but I am a firm believer in collaborative care and utilizing resources outside of your practice to help patients. Psychiatry is a team sport, and I have had the privilege of working with some of the brightest minds in the field.
Nelae Keene, PA-C, works at Orange County Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine in Costa Mesa, CA. Keene has had extensive training and experience treating adolescents and adults with substance abuse and complex psychiatric issues. She is able to perform initial and follow up psychiatric evaluations, provide a diagnosis, treat with medication, and refer for psychotherapy. Keene has interests in natural and alternative medicine and was a 2011 recipient of the Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database Recognition Award, an award that recognizes those with a dedication to evidence-based uses of natural medicine.
This blog was written in conjunction with the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.